Julie Burchill

How did I get Meghan so wrong?

How did I get Meghan so wrong?
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I have many fine qualities – but being a good judge of character is not one of them. Put me in a room with six saints and a psychopath and we all know who I’m going to be swearing blood-brotherhood with by the end of the evening. Interestingly, this hasn’t left me feeling like a victim; as I’m extremely tough, reckless and self-mocking, I bounce from one inappropriate friendship to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.

But most of these relationships are by their nature not conducted in the public eye. When a journalist makes a fool of themselves drooling over a famous figure who later turns out to be an ocean-going rotter, it’s a different matter. However I may as well do a mea culpa on this matter – anything for a cheap laugh, even if that involves dragging my own name through the dirt. Twice, in this very magazine, I have lain down my pride like a cape over dirty water and begged Meghan Markle to walk all over me.

Worst things first. In the winter of 2017 I scribbled thus, no doubt dotting the letter i with hearts whenever it appeared:

‘Prince Harry is a lucky man to have found a companion who is so definitively un-princessy – even though she is as beautiful a woman ever to have walked the Earth... It would be nice to think – for reasons of spite and scandal – that Meghan Markle is that splendid thing "an adventuress: a) a woman who seeks dangerous or exciting experiences: b) a woman who seeks position or livelihood by questionable means" (Merriam-Webster). But I think the far more wholesome if less thrilling truth is simply that she is a young woman in love.’

There’s worse to come. Whenever I post a piece of mine on my Facebook page, I always add the warning: 'REMEMBER WE HACKS DON’T WRITE OUR OWN HEADLINES!' Well, in this case I did; the headline was 'MEGHAN MARKLE HAS RESCUED HER PRINCE' and was indeed inspired by the final line of passionately purple prose: ‘Meghan Markle has never waited soppily for some prince to rescue her. In fact, it seems far likelier that it is she who will rescue the prince.’ CRINGE! As the youngsters say.

By the spring of 2018 I appear to have calmed down a little bit – I was perhaps being a trifle cheeky to my girl-crush even: 'HOORAY FOR MEGHAN MARKLE – A VERY MODERN ADVENTURESS' the headline cheered. But talk about Be Careful What You Wish For:

‘She’s a thoroughly modern minx who won’t wear the traditional fur and Fracas perfume of the professional vamp, but I’d love it if Meghan Markle turned out to be an adventuress as well as a woman in love. (You have to admit that posting the ex-husband’s ring back was a hopeful sign.) The fearsome words "American divorcee" have been aired, the press is squared, the middle class is quite prepared — bring on the bunting.’

A bunting I could now well use to throttle myself with sheer embarrassment.

Thankfully, by the summer of 2019 I was thoroughly disillusioned and slunk off to the excellent Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche to moan; ‘Harry and Meghan took four private jets in eleven days after a summer of lecturing us about climate change and refusing to show their baby to the paying public; this followed shortly after the prince’s jaunt to the Google climate change summit where he is also thought to also have taken a helicopter, as he habitually uses them to fly short distances whereas the Queen makes do with a train. Having a public figure as notoriously self-centred and bad-tempered as Elton John rush in to defend them didn’t help, but only further established that the Sussexes saw themselves as international stars rather than one nation’s public servants. But at least their box-fresh love-match is in no way sleazy - that side of things is competently being taken care of by Prince Andrew.’

Apparently I wasn’t alone in successfully de-toxing from my M&M habit; when a publication asked me to write in a for/against debate about her last year. I received a dismayed email back when I confirmed that I would be happy to condemn her: ‘Oh - we thought you liked her!’

‘I did - but I’ve gone off her.’

‘Oh, that’s what everyone says! Sorry, but we’re looking for people in favour…’

Well, they won’t be asking me again. Shortly after hearing that Meghan planned to semi-retire from royal duties in order to spend more time with her merchandising, I coined a fabulous phrase - THE GRABDICATION. My rehabilitation is now complete - but please do stop me if I start making eyes at Zara Tindall.